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3.9 out of 5 stars
Thirteen Moons: A Novel
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134 of 146 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
I'd never read Cold Mountain, but picked up Thirteen Moons because of the story related to the Cherokee nation. The book itself is a fictionalized rendition of the life and times of Will Thomas, known as Will Usdi (little Will) by the Cherokee. I was impressed by how much Fraizer got right about Cherokee life during those times, and how well the book was written. While the story end for the main character is dissatisfying, I think that was the point, because that chapter in Cherokee history and in the life of the actual Will Thomas was, to put it mildly, dissatisfying and tragic. But here's something to know about this exemplary author of Thirteen Moons: He worked with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation on parts of his novel, and then turned around and set up a grant to assist the Nation in translating it into the Cherokee syllabary, so that it could be used to teach Cherokee to become fluent in the language. Cherokee itself (particularly the Kituwah dialect) is a language that is in danger of becoming extinct, and is an integral part of Cherokee identity. To know one's language is to more firmly be grounded in one's identity. Anyway, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, NC, central to the Qualla Boundary of which Fraizer writes has translated copies of his chapter on the Removal from the book Thirteen Moons. On one side of the page is the Cherokee in Syllabary form, and on the opposite page it's there in phonetic spelling. Each page is labeled to correspond to the English version from the original book. This is the first major publication in Cherokee since the Bible. As a person of Cherokee heritage working these past few years to learn my own language from the Midwest, this was a blessing, to see our language in print. Charles Fraizer ought to win national acclaim for both this fantastic book and for his efforts to revitalize the Cherokee language. He really thought of giving back to the community in a positive and enduring way. I've heard that there may be a movie, and would hope that whoever bought the rights to it will be as considerate and thoughtful in actively including the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation in their production and direction.
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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Thirteen Moons marks only the second novel by Charles Frazier. Coming nine years after his blockbuster hit Cold Mountain, Thirteen Moons is also a story of mountain people but this time prior to the Civil War.

The ninety year old main character, Will Cooper, relates his long and interesting life through a series of stories. As a small child he is orphaned and eventually "bound" to the owner of a small trading post near the Cherokee reservation. Through hard work and diligence he ends up running the store and eventually buys the operation upon the owners death. At the age of 12 he wins the love of his life in a card game. He fights in the Civil War on the side of the confederacy while leading a regiment of natives Americans. He interacts with national legends such as Davy Crockett and Andrew Jackson.

Frazier doesn't admit that Will Coopers character is loosely based on the real exploits of William Holland Thomas, but he does admit that they might share some "DNA".

One of the hallmarks of Frazier's writing style is his eloquent, almost poetic prose. Even when the story lags a bit, as all stories like this do from time to time, reading his sentences, paragraphs, and pages is a joy. He reminds me a bit of another North Carolina author, though less well known, Ron Rash. Both authors have a love of the language and that is evident in how they write. Both also manage to catch of meter of how mountain folk talk and how they think. These gifts only come from having the region in your vains.

Without giving away anything, the characters that he provides us in Thirteen Moons are marvelous and provide a rich tapestry....a background and foreground on which the story plays. Perhaps the most notable is the Cherokee Bear.

The story does seem to ramble in places but this is not a critical error. You'll love reading Thirteen Moons and you'll remember the story and characters for years to come
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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I recently read an essay I'm almost sure was in NYT about slow reading. One of the reasons I read 12+ books a month is because I'm a fast reader. So it's wonderful to be able to read so many books, but the bummer is: they don't stay with me. I remember if I liked or disliked and if I dislike or am not drawn in quickly, I move on. So always on this website I will say how wonderful something is, because I don't continue with something nonwonderful. All of that being said, I read 13 Moons slowly, didn't want it to end, and adored every moment. It's a fascinating story and it takes place at a time where old old happenings have been passed down in the oral tradition. In the 1930s for example, there were many who had been slaves. Now there are only great great grandchildren of slaves. Another example and from the book: Bear, the Indian man who becomes Will's surrogate father, possesses a 250 year old metal headdress worn by a Spanish conquistador. How during the time of this novel, postmen had to be able to read Gaelic because so many Scots and Irish were in the new America and still speaking Gaelic and when mail was sent across the sea the postman had to be able to read the address. The book is chock full of these kinds of odd historical details. Another reviewer or two has given the general plot outline and done it well. Yes, as someone said, this was worth the wait. I slowed down about 40% and this is very thrilling to me--to read a novel the way I read poetry. Not just any novel, but one written so beautifully--with love and knowledge, respect and tenderness. p.s. keep a dictionary handy.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I greatly enjoyed Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, so I looked forward to reading his latest, Thirteen Moons. Although there is much to like in Thirteen Moons and Frazier is a talented writer, the story wasn't always very engaging and the plot fizzled at the end. In fact, I would rate it a four for writing and two for story line.

Will Cooper finds himself an orphan at age twelve, and his aunt and uncle don't care to raise him. They sign him over to serve as the shopkeeper of an Indian trading post on the edge of the Cherokee Nation. Young Will received a unique education--one he would have never gotten living on a farm. A Cherokee chief by the name of Bear eventually adopts Will and Will becomes part of their tribe. Frazier follows Will as he becomes an entrepreneur, a lawyer, a senator, a colonel and a white chief. He also covers a half-century, that includes the Trail of Tears and the Civil War.

Frazier has a homey but descriptive writing style and I often found myself going back to reread many sentences. In describing his caretaker May, Will observes "Her skin is the color of tanned deerhide, a mixture of several bloods--white and red and black--complex enough to confound those legislators who insist on naming every shade down to the thirty-second fraction." When the Baptists give Bear a Bible, Bear "judged the Bible to be a sound book. Nevertheless, he wondered why the white people were not better than they are, having had it for so long. He promised that just as soon as white people achieved Christianity, he would recommend it to his own flock." The background on the Cherokee Indians and their culture was especially interesting.

Unfortunately, after truly enjoying this book for the first three-quarters, the story seems to die. I didn't understand the love-hate relationship between Featherstone and Will and I was especially confused about Will's love affair with Claire Featherstone. In terms of the plot, I can't decide if the problem is mine or if Frazier's editor was AWOL in the editing process. Also, the plot was too descriptive and too deliberate. While reading, I couldn't help thinking that Larry McMurtry could have done more justice to this story.

I can't say that I'm sorry that I read Thirteen Moons. However, I don't feel that I could recommend it to others.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I read Cold Mountain shortly after it came out and loved that book. Each time that I've read it since, I've enjoyed its richness, hated its conclusion and checked to see whether Charles Frazier has written another book.

So I was thrilled to see that FINALLY he had. I approached it with some fear, could it live it up to his first book or would I be disappointed?

You can imagine my delight to find another multi-layered dessert. Like a previous reviewer, I've read it slowly. I wanted to savor each spoonful. It's richly textured with wonderful descriptions of the life of the protagonist. And that was also a rich life, encountering events and people that would seem improbable and impossible today.

You can read elsewhere about the story line. All I'm going to say is that this book is at once like your favorite meal - something you've longed to encounter again. At the same time it's an impossible improvement and to be enjoyed slowly, I'm already sorry that it's over.

Like Cold Mountain, I expect to revisit it several times and be taken through a wide range of emotions each time. I highly recommend this book to all readers.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Those that have labeled this book a "bore" have entirely missed the point.

This is a beautiful meditation on loss, love, and change. Like Cold Mountain, it's a road novel, but of an entirely different kind. To paraphrase Henry Miller, 'there is only one journey and that is inward to the soul'. This book is an elegy of sorts, a gorgeous meditation full of angst, humor, rant, and longing. Charles Frazier so thoroughly inhabits Will Cooper that one is soon lost in the old man's reverie.

Ignore those reviews whose frame of reference is a simple good story. This is a great story, but also far more. This book is more literary, more powerful and in many ways more tragic than Cold Mountain because it is more personal, more filled with the sense of loss in all the ways that one's life is, replete with juxtapositions, contradictions , stubbornness, melancholy and longing.

I need more than sheer entertainment in my writing. This is a beautiful book and highly recommended.
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50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have found a really great way to know which books I will enjoy. I check out the book reviews by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times. If Ms. Kakutani rips a book apart I can be fairly certain that the book will be great. Her snobbery makes for some wonderful guidance.

That being said, Thirteen Moons was a long time in coming. Cold Mountain was published in 1997. Millions of copies later the expectations for Thirteen Moons were stupendous. Frazier took his time and he has written a followup that I found utterly satisfying.

I have trouble with some of the reviews I have read. They give away all of the good stuff. It's like sitting in a movie theatre and hearing some jerk say what is about to happen. Why spoil it for everybody else?

I won't do that. Suffice it to say that this is the story of a man who lived through most of the 19th Century. As the story begins, Will Cooper is remembering his life. He kept journals. He reflects on his passage from being an orphan to becoming a rich landowner. Along the way he fell in love, was adopted by the Cherokees, spent time in politics and found a way to stop President Andrew Jackson's plan to force the Cherokees off of their lands. There is so much to this book.

Frazier is a master storyteller. He spins one wonderful tale after another. Many are told by Bear, the Cherokee warrior who adopted Will and made him part of his clan. The yarns are superb and the emotions of the characters really ring true. The story of Bear's hunting dog is by itself worth the price of admission.It will bring a wee tear to your eye. Frazier's gift is to make his characters come alive on the page. Ignore the critics. Savor this marvelous book.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
First, as always, the disclaimer. I am a regional author (Suomalaiset: People of the Marsh; ISBN 0972005064) and, like all authors, prone to fighting fits of envy. So, take what I am about to write with a grain of salt. I loved "Cold Mountain". Loved the premise,the historical truth, the characters, the setting, and the writing. I looked forward to the much hyped second effort by Mr. Frazier. The good news is that his writing is still exemplary. By that, I mean the man certainly knows how to turn a phrase. But that's about all I can say, in terms of positives, about this effort. The plot seems overblown and quite frankly, totally preposterous. The main character, Will, is thrown into wars, and disasters, and inclement weather, and every other kind of malady, only to survive, essentially unchanged and unscathed, while all those around him fall or fail. His ability to amass a fortune and hundreds of thousands of acres of land seems, given his humble beginnings, to strain even my vivid imagination. The descriptions of the landscape are lovely but lost in a plot that has no point. The first quarter of the book, the beginnings of a love affair between Will and Claire, the love of Will's life, has promise. Then, for the greater part of half of the novel, we are immersed endlessly in tedium surrounding Will and his adopted Indian tribe, the only point of which seems is to convince us that Will's greed isn't selfish, but done for the good his Red Brothers and Sisters. Far too late, and in a strained and surrealistic manner, the story comes back to Will and Claire. But by then, my patience was worn thin and the return to the real story, the interpersonal struggle between the lovers, had lost its appeal. Two stars might be a little light but that's how I see it.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
There are those readers who want books to read like moving pictures, with much action and little dialogue. Then there are those who read for love of story and the language that carries it forward.... Story telling is, of course, one of the undervalued gifts Native Americans have contributed to American culture as a whole. One of the pleasures of reading Thirteen Moons has to do with appreciating that ancient art form, giving oneself up to the telling of a story in complete, sensory detail. Another of the pleasures is Charles Frazier's love for and use of the English language; his gentle renderings are as exquisite and poignant as Will's love for Claire. I would not recommend this book to the Da Vinci Code crowd. Rather, it is an offering to those who love rich stories of times and peoples who are lost forever. Thirteen Moons brings honor to the gift of story telling, gives words, in all their subtle ebb and flow and nuance and wonder, precedence over anorexic plot lines. It is a book for lovers of art.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In "Thirteen Moons" Charles Frazier cements his reputation as a graceful writer. This tale is a lyrically - almost poetically - written tale of the Cherokee Indian Tribe in Western North Carolina and, later, in the Indian Territory, and its fictional "White Chief," Will Cooper. Despite Frazier's claim to the contrary in an author's note, Cooper's story is close to that of William Holland Thomas who from becoming a "bound boy" to a mercantile store owner in the early 19th Century, was adopted by the Cherokees, became a leader, and during the Civil War was a Confederate Colonel who lead Indian troops.

Frazier's laudable ability to believably and interestingly recount the history of the times by using multifaceted characters made the book consistently interesting, to me at least. Still, the story, as beautifully told as it was, turned out to be curiously unsatisfying in the end. The worst mistake an author can make is to tell too much but here, Frazier tells too little. For example, I had difficulty understanding the motivation of Claire, the love of Will's life, because Frazier told so little of the nature of her relationship with her guardian, and later husband, Featherstone. Still, it's a beautiful and bittersweet story that I'm glad I read.

As a side note, I listened to the audio edition of the book, read by the estimable Will Patton. Patton is not only a fine actor but he is a South Carolinian who attended school in North Carolina. I could not have asked for more from his performance.
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